You turn on the news, and you it. Jim Cantore is reporting that Tropical Storm Xyz is tracking towards Florida (or South Carolina, or Texas, or any number of places) and a thought pops into your head — why did they name the storm Andrew or Camille or Erin or Opal? Of course, if you’re planning for a storm, there no time to worry about that. However, if you are a hurricane novice, new to a coastal area, or just never took the time to find out why, you may be wondering how is that storm named?
In the 1950s, the National Hurricane Center began naming Atlantic storms. In 1972, the World Meteorological Organization formed the Tropical Cyclone Project (www.wmo.int) that ultimately became the governing body for naming Atlantic storms. There’s more to the story, but in the interest of time, the WMO hosts the committee that creates the list of names.
Now, some of you may notice names popping up that you’ve seen before, or maybe even from storms that you’ve tracked in the past. That’s because the list cycles every six years. The names are alpha-ordered, denoting the number of named storms in a season. If a storm forms in the offseason, the next name on the list will be used.
Some names do cycle out – for example, you’ll never see another Hurricane Andrew or Hurricane Opal. That’s because, once a storm causes a significant amount of damage (loss of life and/or financial damages), that name is retired, likely the next time the WMO committee meets. This is done for reasons of being thoughtful to the victims of destructive storms. (you can see a complete list of retired names here: https://www.nhc.noaa.gov/aboutnames_history.shtml)
One fun fact for retired names – in 2004, there are four names that were retired: Charley, Francis, Ivan, and Jeanne, known to some Floridians as the “Gang of Four”. In that year, all four storms hammered Florida within a six week period. There is a location, in Lakeland, Florida, where all four eyes actually crossed (meaning that they all four intersected at a particular point, on the tracking of their paths).
We will post the prediction of the coming season in an upcoming blog. Currently, we are 53 days from the start of the 2018 Atlantic Hurricane Season. How many of the names will be used? Only time will tell. Will we use 21 names? Will we use more names? Will it be a light or heavy season? We will post more in the coming days!